Removing the Death Penalty in Texas

According to Benjamin Franklin, “ the only sure thing in this life is death and taxes. ” But why should death have to come early? The death penalty should be abolished in the state of Texas. Developed and evolved nations do not use the death penalty any longer and the US including the State of Texas should abolish its use. The death penalty is an archaic Draconian measure that is no longer needed in modern society. The death penalty is not a deterrent in someone committing a serious criminal act.

As a bastion to human rights we should not be taking those rights away from individuals but should be an example to all nations instead of committing cruel acts on our own people. Justice is not served by having the death penalty around; in fact grave miscarriages of justice can be caused by the death penalty. If you look throughout history mans code of laws has developed from primitive laws where harsh punishments could be enforced to act as a deterrent to criminals and other unjust laws to laws that protect rights and meet out justice.

Surely stealing a piece of food that is worth a small sum is worth losing your hand but that was the law in ancient times. We can see with the rise of education, moral, and social development laws in the more developed nations have changed as society has developed. Society’s development can be judged by a number of things one of which is its equity in law. America and Japan are the only westernized industrial societies that still have the death penalty. A pattern can be seen looking at nations that have and do not have the death penalty.

Most European countries including all of the western nations do not have a death penalty, but almost all of the Asian and African nations do. The western European countries have been more liberal and advanced in their thinking such as being the first to allow woman suffrage, abolish slavery, etc. America has lagged behind where it should lead the way. Those who argue for the death penalty claim that it is a deterrent to those who might commit major crimes. This argument does not hold up to common sense or logic.

Looking at the recent rise in violence of youth starting with the columbine shooting and the perpetrators often willingly taking their own life makes it appear that not only has the fear of the death penalty not made people afraid to commit crimes which they could receive the death penalty for but by their willingness to commit suicide it is apparent that death is not a deterrent to such individuals. Crimes that get the death penalty the people willingly and knowingly commit a serious offense and if morals, ethics, decorum, and society do not keep them from committing such crimes how does the thought they might get killed have an affect?

Can you really see a Hannibal Lector, or to be realistic a Timothy McVeigh saying, “If I get caught I could get the death penalty I guess I better not do this. ” The act is obviously overpowering them if it is rape it is obvious the sexual desires are taking over not their head, if murder then revenge, hate, anger, or some other passion is driving them and they are not thinking about the death penalty. Proponents of the death penalty would argue that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment.

Most would admit that certain forms of the death penalty could be cruel but lethal injection they would claim is not cruel and in Texas lethal injection is how executions are handled. While interviewing a former death row inmate I found that the whole time they are in prison it is torture thinking about how it will affect their family being alive everyday but being dead at the same time and how they would prefer their family hearing they were killed in prison to them getting the death penalty (cite your interview here). Cruelty is not just physical it can be mental too.

Just try to imagine the mental anguish going into a room knowing that you are going to be killed. Not only does the inmate suffer the mental and emotional stress for the remainder of their life but their family will suffer the whole time and continue to suffer the pains after the death. The point of a correctional facility is the correction of bad behavior. If one receives the death penalty they cannot change and when they do change they are shortly killed. The criminal suffers while in prison. No one wants to be in prison it is a horrible place. Having your life taken away and being forced to live in a prison is a miserable punishment.

But the real miscarriage of justice in this instance is in shortening this torment. Death is a release from their punishment. On occasion people who are innocent are sent to prison and these people could get the death sentence when they are innocent. It is hard to say how many people have been wrongly sentenced to death even just in the State of Texas but cases are known that a person was later found innocent or mistakes were made and they legally they should have not been in prison. In fact since 1992 DNA evidence has exonerated over 15 death row inmates so we know for sure that roughly one innocent person a year is killed (1).

There is a good chance more are also innocent but no DNA can be used to clear them, and certainly in the past had the technology been available we would have known more innocent people were killed. A great example of someone from Texas who is now believed to be innocent based on newly discovered evidence is Cameron Willingham (2). New DNA technology means that we could find out years later if a person is guilty or not but if they are killed it will be to late so perhaps to guarantee justice in our modern society we should not allow the death penalty since that would exclude later evidence from coming to light.

The deciding factors on whether the death penalty should exist are is it socially, morally, ethically advanced? Is killing another human being right? Is the death penalty a deterrent to major crimes? Does the death penalty take away our inalienable rights to life, etc? Is life in prison a worse fate? Are more innocent lives lost because of the death penalty? If you have to say yes to any of these then it is clear that the death penalty is not right for a modern society, America, or Texas. Either way let us remember the words of Chilon, “de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est. ”